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Primers Shortlist – Jo Young

We’ll be spending the next month or so discovering the work of the Primers shortlist – the ten poets in the running for our mentoring and publication scheme with Nine Arches Press.

We kicked off these features last week with Geraldine Clarkson, and next up it’s…

Jo Young

Jo is 39 and from York. She served in the Army for seventeen years. Jo writes poetry and fiction and is mum to two boys. She was awarded a distinction in the University of Glasgow’s Creative Writing MLitt in 2015.


Packing up an Injured Female’s Bed-space

Her mosquito net is a bower below the fairy-light garland,
NCIS, The Wire and Girls are dominoed in their box-
Sets alongside a sand-degraded tablet in a fake Mulberry cover.
Her issue sleeping-bag discarded, and in its place
a thin, pink, NAAFI-bought duvet – its filling synthetic.
That slumbering act of wrapping (not zipping) means home.

A malicious day and the eye sore vehicle patrol crawled home.
Transporters heaved their bellies over abrasive land.
Their sleepy boredom was snapped awake by a kinetic
assault; dismounting while Valon operators inspected a box
beside the littered track and a chalked X marking the place
where gunmen had planned to maroon them, stripped of cover.

Her comrades are skittish yet rebuoyed to discover
the airborne patchwork will hold fast until she gets home.
And for now, their task is to quietly gather and place
her toiletries, photos and Grazias, which she never planned
to be cargo and are unfit for inspection, into a box
overseen by a sergeant who is brusquely sympathetic.

Time-funnelled horror as the spectra of electromagnetic
responses blistered and crackled; cohesion emerged and cover
was sought; grids and casualties’ staccato codes filled the box
of templated response, imitating memory; drills perfected at home
for months before they shrugged on their packs, shouldered this land
and woke so early to air-con, bewildered by the suddenness of a new place.

The girls are chat-hungry. The internet lockdown is in place
until her next-of kin are informed of the injuries by an officer prophetic
of surgery, pain and physio; fully trained to deliver the news to family in England.
He’ll translate terror and mental trenches and the coming fight to recover,
into something which medals, parades and Harry will adapt for a home
audience. Testimonies for when there is nothing better on the box.

She is strapped and tubed (not shattered and gathered in a lying box),
and wonders about her trainers; can her Tag Heuer be replaced?
The girls she misses and the boys who guiltily avoid visiting will follow home
and applaud her, raise money as she marathons on her prosthetic
leg and is invited to talk on Women’s Hour. For now they fold and uncover,
those trainers and a bikini and lotion for the tan she had planned.

Her friends tape up the box holding her blithe, cosmetic
adjustments which made this place, with selfies and a cushion cover,
into something like home. She flies out and the pilot is gentle as he comes in to land.


Stay tuned for features on all the shortlisted poets over the coming weeks, and find out the full Primers shortlist here.

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